PARTHIAN OCCUPATION OF NINEVEH
famous Neo-Assyrian city of Nineveh was occupied by Seleucid
Greeks and then Parthians after it fell to a force of Medes and
Persians in the summer of 612 BC (Stronach and Lumsden 1992).
The most important piece of Parthian architecture was uncovered
by George Smith in 1875. [FIGURE 1]
lintel recovered by George Smith.
It bears devices that relate it to the art of Hatra, where other
‘dragons’ can be found. The lintel is currently in the
British Museum (B.M. WAA
Drawing upon the wave
of public enthusiasm for Assyrian culture stimulated by the
famous excavations of Layard (1817-1894), Smith largely ignored
non-literary materials, particularly from later periods.
His methods were such that this stone lintel, recovered near the
entrance of the South West Palace, has no architectural context.
It is likely that this lintel was part of a Parthian structure,
but because Smith assumed it was Assyrian (Smith 1875: 146), it
was illustrated on the cover of the second edition of his book
Assyrian Discoveries. It depicts two winged creatures of a broad
feline form with prominent feet and wings facing an altar.
Similar devices occur on the metopes of Hatrine Temples (Curtis
1976: 60). Like other Parthian structures at Nineveh, it
may have largely followed the Neo-Assyrian plan [FIGURE 2], but
there may have been a Parthian period pitched brick vault as
rebuilding of Nineveh. Much of the Parthian period
rebuilding follows the old Neo-Assyrian plan. At first
fired brick from earlier periods was used, and later stone
and rubble walls were built. A Parthian period
cemetery corresponds with a region that was apparently not
extensively re-built. Revised from Campbell-Thompson
and Hutchinson (1931: pl. 39).
For more solid evidence, one must progress from the
scant architectural remains and consider small finds, but at
this stage it is important to define major sources of
information; and consider what the term Parthian really means.
Much of our information comes from the Classical world, which
was in conflict with the Parthian empire.